County’s “Oops Tag” Program Designed to Reduce Non-Recyclables in Residents’ Bins

The county’s Department of Environmental Protection has begun a program of inspecting residents’ recycling collections looking for items that shouldn’t be placed in those bins.

The Recycle Right “Oops Tag” program is intended to reduce the amount of non-recyclable material going to the recycling center.

“In 2020, the Montgomery County Recycling Center received about 7,500 tons (about 15 million pounds) of non-recyclable material. This represents about 22 percent of all non-paper recycling received at the recycling center at an approximate cost of $750,000,” according to a press release.

Inspectors plan to visit each neighborhood where the county provides recycling pickup two to three times. Inspectors will tag any bin containing items that are not recyclable, and the tagged bin will not be picked up.

The tags will be marked to note what items are not recyclable.

Plastic bags, plastic wrap, hazardous or toxic product containers, electronics, packing peanuts or foam blocks used to protect items in shipments, and home health care medical supplies are the most common items found, according to the release.

“We know most people have good intentions when tossing items they believe are recyclable into their recycling bins,” DEP Director Adam Ortiz said in the release. “We call this ‘wish-cycling,’ but not everything that is plastic or glass is recyclable. The ‘oops tags’ let people know the specific items in their bins that cannot be recycled. It is our hope that this targeted education will provide an ‘ah-ha’ moment for residents who want to recycle right.”

The program began in May and crews have found the recycling bin rejection rate is about 22 percent for the first week of inspections. By the third week, the rejection rate typically drops to about 15 percent.

More information about non-recyclables is available online.

Montgomery County graphic

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